An elite wrestler and Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Marcos “Santa Cruz” Oliveira had his day in the sun in the lead-up to the Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship final in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. He was celebrated in the streets, beat his first two opponents with ease, and he was favored to win the final, which would have earned him a million dirhams had he won.
But reality exploded in his face, in the form of a hard first-round knockout at the hands of Russia’s Shamil Abdurahimov last March 11.
“After the GP I had to come up with a new hobby to keep me motivated to fight and carry on with life. I found it when I realized my passion is really to teach Jiu-Jitsu to kids, and I started filming and editing our training sessions; that was something important to me,” recounts Marcão.
“So I started training in the gi again, and it was hard readapting to it. I think one of the mistakes I made in the GP was putting training Jiu-Jitsu in the gi aside,” recognized the fighter, who came close to putting in an appearance at the 2011 Worlds.
“The stumbling block was that we never have vacation in June here in Abu Dhabi. I’d also have liked to participate at the World Pro here, but the focus at home was Carol (DeLazzer, his wife). At home we have a motto: one dream at a time. But vacation’s coming up and I’m going to quench my longing for Gi competitions at the Rio Open, in Tijuca,” said the black belt born in Santa Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, who carries on brushing up his boxing. With his head and technique up to date, he already dreams of a rematch to put his worst loss yet to rest.
“Even before fighting, Shamil and I were handed a contract setting up the rematch, which should go down in November. After the fight I met up with the ADFC promoter, but we didn’t go to far with the conversation. They were understanding of my loss, let me take my time to get some air, so to speak,” he said in praise. “I really do hope the fight happens, since my whole team and I know how ready I was and how I could have won. Some unforeseen events happened the week of the fight and nothing went according to plan, but I’m ready for the next one,” he stated.
In the meantime, he carries on teaching class and having fun with his students. “I became famous with the GP; I was on the covers of newspapers and magazines, which weren’t GRACIEMAG but it was nice,” he joked.
“People are still coming up to me today; everyone knows that I teach at a project put together by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, and they want to see my next fights. And every day when I show up at the academy the kids applaud me. That’s worth more than a million,” he said in finishing.